How I tamed my inbox and to-do list

I considered myself quite organized until I joined Google in 2018. The volume of emails and the action-items embedded within infinitely long threads with 30 people on CC was on a scale I hadn’t quite encountered before.

After I returned from my maternity leave in the fall of 2019 with only 2,998,999 unread emails, I knew I had to tame the beast. By using a combination of multiple inboxes and a bullet journal, I have been able to find a system to stay organized.

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Multiple inboxes

This is also known as zero-inboxing. I use the multiple inbox feature in gmail to help me to do this. It’s a quick filtering of incoming email into buckets of what needs to be done now vs later. It requires you to label your email but the act of doing so forces you to prioritize. …

Focus on clarity of purpose

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It’s application season. You are applying to graduate schools and dreading the statement of purpose (SOP). Seven years ago I was in your shoes concurrently applying for policy and MBA programs in the US. Having written my fair share of SOPs, I now receive many requests to review them. Reading these deeply personal stories of struggles and aspirations is a privilege and I often end up deepening the personal connection with the candidate in the process. However, I see applicants struggling with a core issue every year: clarity of purpose.

Step 0: Clarify your purpose

There are a lot of personal and professional reasons that go into your decision to apply to a certain program. The tendency is to want to squeeze all of it into one essay. That does not work. What you choose to include and equally important — exclude — needs to be targeted to your program and university. …

When applying for my MBA, I didn’t find content that addressed the challenges unique to applying from an emerging country like Bangladesh. This blog post is an effort to fill that gap.

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This piece was published in the Taramon blog.

In the evening of March 24, 2014, I was on my way back from Netrokona in a microbus full of my Jeeon colleagues. My phone rang. Unknown number. I picked up expecting it to be spam.

It was Derrick Bolton, Dean of Admissions at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

I don’t remember anything he said, except that I had been accepted to the class of 2016. …

This piece was published as an opinion piece in the Daily Star.

Bangladesh now has a thriving technology startup ecosystem. Companies are reaching scale, attracting significant venture funding and hiring in large numbers. However, one of the byproducts of this happy story is that it will leave women behind. In the US, for example, only about 20 percent of technical roles are held by women. Companies compensate by hiring more women in non-technical roles such as sales and marketing but it is key that women are well-represented in engineering, product management and data science because of the following reasons.

First, technical teams design, build and launch products. The earliest motion-sensored soap dispensers did not recognise darker skinned hands because they had been built and tested by primarily white engineers. Similarly, when engineering teams are mostly male, critical perspectives on how to make products work for women are missing from the room. …

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This piece was published as an opinion piece in The Daily Star.

Everyone deserves an inclusive and respectful environment at work. However, women face many challenges in this respect. One such barrier is the daily grind of sexist and misogynist comments, which are a manifestation of the underlying belief that men are superior to women. Dropped casually at the end of a presentation or as crude jokes between male colleagues, such comments belittle women’s work, talent, and dignity.

So what is being said in workplaces that is so problematic? I asked both men and women that question and the responses came hard and fast. Women responded with comments that were targeted at them and men responded with what they overhear in all-male settings. This is a simple call to action if you want to be an ally to women: don’t say these things and if someone else does, ask them to stop. …

Almost all the students in my Harvard classroom were biased…including me

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I had a life-changing moment in 2015 when I was a graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School. As part of a development economics class in the MPA/ID program (Master in Public Administration in International Development) we were asked to take the Implicit Association Test (IAT) on gender and career. It's a blitz fast 3 minute game of reflexes where you associate certain words with gender. With a full time working mother, an engineering degree from MIT and having held numerous leadership positions in management prior to graduate school, I wasn't too worried about my performance. …

This piece was published as an opinion piece in the Daily Star.

The importance of women having financial independence cannot be overstated. It is the number one reason women stay in an abusive relationship as they would not be able to support themselves or their children outside of it. As a working woman myself, I am earnest in my efforts in encouraging other women to earn and manage their own money. At the same time, there is a difference between encouraging women to work and shaming them if they choose not to.

I see women being called lazy, being a burden or having wasted their education if they do not work. While any of those descriptions can be true for an individual (women and men), it cannot be used to broad-brush an extremely complex socio-economic phenomenon. …

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My daughter Aisha was 11 months old when I filed into Cemex for our opening address from Dean Levin. I am a geographically single mom: my husband is back in Bangladesh. He needs to keep working to support us. My parents packed up their apartment in Dhaka and moved to the USA to help raise Aisha while I am in school. I am also a dual degree candidate with the Harvard Kennedy School and the four of us have been on a bi-coastal journey for the past two years.

I could talk at length about the pains and joys of being a mom at graduate school: my decision to stop nursing because I couldn’t keep up with classes and pumping, the awkward look from the recruiter when I asked about daycare, the creeping doubt if I should have asked that question at all, the endless cuddles for Aisha from classmates, family portraits in the shimmer of Memorial Church. …

Exploring equitable growth in Kenya and Rwanda

Coming from Bangladesh, I really wanted to go to Kenya and Rwanda for my Global Study Trip at the Stanford Graduate School of Business as I was keen to see how other developing countries are managing their growth process. Bangladesh is unique in that relative to per capita GDP, its human development indicators are unpredictably high (sometimes referred to as the Bangladesh paradox). I was curious to see how Kenya and Rwanda, the former with a much higher GDP and latter with a much lower GDP, stacked up to Bangladesh.

Rising tides or lift boats first?

At the heart of every growth debate is the classic question: will rising tides lift all boats or do you lift the boats at the bottom instead? Most countries simply accept that rising tides will lift all boats and opt for a market driven economy that will grow the pie for everyone. Our meeting at Bridge International Academies was exemplary of this conundrum in a microcosm. Bridge runs low-cost private schools in Kenya and other developing countries but at $5-$7/month, they are out of the reach of the poorest. But that prices also lets the academy have the economies of scale to reach the largest number of students possible while ensuring sufficient quality. Much of the criticism it faces is that the price point makes it out of reach for the poorest — but should they sacrifice absolute number of students reached for the hardest to reach? …


Shammi Quddus

Product Manager @ Google | Stanford MBA | Harvard MPAID | MIT Eng

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